The four phases of whiplash

The four phases of whiplash happen when you’re in a collision and stop abruptly. These four phases help are an insight into how injury happens. Treatment for whiplash is an important part of recovery…

Please drive carefully and with your full attention. Vehicle collisions are all too common. And while there are a variety of ways to get whiplash, vehicle accidents remain the most common. There are a variety of affects of whiplash or Whiplash-Associated Disorders. Whiplash is also know as Cervical Acceleration/ Deceleration Syndrome, or CADS.

We see whiplash cases in our health clinic and we can help with recovery. It can be understood to happen in four phases.

The first step of whiplash starts when the seat impacts the body. It begins acceleration of the body and an S curve begins in the cervical spine.

The first phase of whiplash

In phase two the neck hyperextends and the head hits the seat. In this phase the tissue in the front of the neck get injured.

The second phase of whiplash: physiology

In the third phase, the passenger rebounds from the seat and moves forward. The head accelerates forward too.

The third phase of whiplash: neck and skeleton response

In the fourth phase, and possibly the most damaging phase, the seatbelt restrains the body. But the head keeps moving forward and the neck is forced into hyperflexion. This phase injures the tissue on the back of the neck.

A skeletal diagram of the fourth and most impactful phase of whiplash

Watch them in sequence

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Posted by Sandy Wilson, BScPT

Arbutus Physiotherapy & Health Centre is owned and operated by Sandy Wilson, BScPT. Sandy is a registered member of the Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia. Sandy is a mother of two and an avid runner and triathlete.

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